UAE and Austria see bright future after enhancing ties
The UAE’s zero-tolerance to extremism also aligns well with the Austrian intolerance to all forms of terror.
The UAE-Austrian ties have touched a new milestone that will yield tangible results across sectors, thanks to the recent state visit by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
The first-ever visit of the Crown Prince to Austria was celebrated as a grand affair by the local media as well by the Austrian government. The Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz referred to the UAE as one of Austria’s “most important partners in the Arab region” and “most important economic partner in the Arab World”.
In an interview to the state news agency, Wam, Kurz said the visit is a great source of ‘honour and pleasure’ for his country.
On his arrival in Austria, Sheikh Mohamad referred to the Chancellor as ‘my friend’, and said they will discuss ways of “strengthening the historical relationship between our countries... Announcing our plans to develop this relationship into a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership marks a new phase that will bring about broader prospects for developing new avenues of collaboration and establishing partnerships in various fields”.
Beyond the diplomatic niceties and the media hype of a state visit, both leaders have expressed their keen desire and political will to build on the existing strengths of the relationship and explore new avenues of partnership. The move to elevate the bilateral relations between the two countries to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, is a win-win for both the UAE and Austria.
The UAE is one of the most powerful Arab countries in the region with enough diplomatic and military power to influence the course of regional politics. With the UAE as its key Arab partner, Austria can expand its ties with other countries in the region and play a more constructive role in regional security, politics, international and humanitarian cooperation.
The UAE’s zero-tolerance to extremism also aligns well with the Austrian intolerance to all forms of terror. The UAE has set an example to other countries in the region by promoting religious tolerance and coexistence. The emirates has been actively quashing the Iran-funded military groups in Yemen, Lebanon and Syria and pushing a peace agenda for the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Austria has been praised for the series of reforms it has taken to defeat extremist and radical ideologies from taking root in their country that has seen Daesh-inspired attacks on civilians in the past. Hence, both countries are ideally placed to promote multilateralism, including the promotion of tolerance and human rights.
On the economic front, the strong ties between Austria and the UAE are evident and important indicators like increase in direct investment and trade volumes indicate the same. The trade between the UAE and Austria has been flourishing and according to the Austrian Chancellor, the Austrian direct investment in the UAE amounts to €7 billion. Both the times when Chancellor Kurz visited the UAE — in 2018 and 2019 — he was accompanied by a high-level economic delegation.
The UAE currently ranks first on the list of Austria’s most important trading partners in the Middle East region and the Gulf Cooperation Council region, where the volume of trade exchange between the two countries in 2019 amounted to $1.12 billion, including free zones, according to stats published by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. More than 400 Austrian companies are operating in the UAE as the main centre for managing their business in the Gulf, North and East Africa and parts of India. Also, the UAE has become the main crossing for Austria’s exports to the Middle East region.
Several Austrian companies have undertaken significant projects in the UAE, including the construction of Al Maqta Bridge, Sheikh Khalifa Bridge, Dubai Floating Bridge, the Dome of the Louvre and The Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Center.
Through the strategic partnership, the Austrian Chancellor said both the countries plan to explore opportunities to enhance economic and trade relations and in the field of clean energy. “We strive to work more closely together, especially in the field of renewable energies and hydrogen.”
The strategic partnership agreement to strengthen business to business partnerships could not have come at a better time as the UAE is getting ready to host Expo 2020 Dubai beginning October 1. As business hubs in their respective regions, the UAE and Austria envisages to expand business cooperation and open access gates for products and companies to enter new markets.
Austria’s pavillion that blends Arab architecture and Austrian techniques is nearing completion. The pavillion will showcase Austria’s know-how and strengths in areas such as new technologies, education, e-government, life sciences, security systems, especially cyber-security and innovative transport solutions. During the six-month Expo, the Austrian pavilion will host a wide-ranging business programme to connect Austrian and Arabian Gulf businesses, with the aim of developing new trade and economic ties.
The high-level joint business to business and industrial and investment partnership also seeks to find areas of cooperation in the field of renewable energy, solar and wind, hydrogen-based energy and other innovative energy technologies.
During the six months of the Expo and beyond, the two countries have much to benefit from each other’s strengths and the joint declaration of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership has set the ball rolling.
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